Thursday, June 19, 2008

Riding to Montauk Saturday!

In a moment of weakness yesterday, I let my buddies on convince me to sign up for the Ride to Montauk. It's a group ride with 145, 100, 66, and 30 mile routes all ending in scenic Montauk, Long Island. The 66-mile route will be my longest ride yet attempted, so wish me luck!

A-train yet again passed over

According to today's New York Times, the MTA will provide additional service on 9 subway lines to ease crowding starting in July. The affected lines are the 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, B, J, M, N, Q, W and the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

The Times states that "the changes include having the B and W trains run until 11 p.m. on weekdays, an hour and a half later than they currently run. And the No. 3 train, which currently shuts down from midnight to 5 a.m., would run during those hours between Times Square and 148th Street. "

Alas, the A-train continues to suffer from limited express service ending daily at 10:30 p.m. and on-going construction late nights and weekends that seriously inconveniences all individuals traveling north of 168th St.

Transit riders slapped in the face

(Image source: Machetera)

Well, I'm having my fifteen minutes of fame on the Streetsblog home page as the featured "Word on the street." Those words are: "All transit riders here have been collectively slapped in the face."

No, there hasn't been an outbreak of hand-to-face violence on New York City subway cars. Rather, our dysfunctional and corrupt state legislature has once again denied home rule to NYC on a local matter of vital importance: enforcement of car-free bus lanes.

Buses in NYC, beyond fighting traffic congestion like other automobiles, are slowed down even further by frequent stops and slow boarding: passengers can only enter through the front door and must pay for their ride on board. Starting in July, the city will begin an experiment with Bus Rapid Transit (on the Bx12 route), a system that attempts to provide the efficiences of a subway system above ground. Passengers pay at the stop before boarding and may enter and exit at all doors. Buses have dedicated lanes and priority rights-of-way at traffic signals.

A key way of ensuring cars and other vehicles don't use the bus lanes is through bus-mounted cameras that photograph the license plates of any vehicles improperly using the lane. Unfortunately, using these cameras requires approval of the NYS legislature, which on Tuesday killed the legislation in committee by a 14-11 vote, due to the opposition of state transportation committee chair David Gantt (Assembly, D-Rochester). Gantt's opposition was supposedly on civil liberties grounds, although he approved red-light camera enforcement in other counties in order to benefit a specific vendor. Gantt is a sadly typical example of the graft and corruption rampant in the NYS legislature. Here are my various comments about it on Streetsblog:

at 1:14 p.m.
I'm outraged.

Once again another livable streets initative for New York City has been stymied because of our corrupt and dysfunctional state legislature in Albany. I feel all transit riders here have been collectively slapped in the face.

New York City has been deprived of home rule on so many fronts, ranging from rent regulation to congestion pricing to bus lane enforcement. It's time for us to secede.

at 2:50 p.m.
Gantt is corrupt, corrupt, corrupt. Here's an another very recent example of his cronyism:

Bill moving driver-safety courses to Net draws fire

"A bill by Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt to move all driver-safety courses to the Internet is drawing fire from groups that run the courses, fearing that the move would increase the cost of the classes and could benefit a lobbyist close to Gantt.

"...the narrow language in the bill could...favor giving the Web-development contract to an Albany-area company, CMA Consulting Services Inc., whose lobbyist, Robert Scott Gaddy, is a former Gantt aide.

"The allegations are the second time in recent days that Gantt's close relationship with Gaddy has come under fire. Just last week, industry officials who want to install red-light cameras at intersections in Upstate New York complained that Gantt's bill on the issue is so narrowly worded that only CMA could get the work."

at 3:10 p.m.
Thank you, Mr. Gantt, for protecting my civil liberties! Oh, wait, you voted *against* legalizing same-sex marriage in New York State last year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Inwood Livable Streets group forming

Streetsblog is sporting a whole new look, and as part of it, they've made it easier than ever to form online working groups for various livable streets initiatives.

If you're interested in helping make Inwood a more pleasant place to live in and visit for pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit riders, please join the new Inwood Livable Streets group!

Some of the issues we'll be looking at are:

  • Adding to the riverfront Greenway in Inwood
  • Creating a protected cycle lane on Dyckman to link the Hudson and Harlem River Greenways
  • Providing bicycle access to select areas in Inwood Hill Park that do not receive heavy pedestrian traffic and would benefit from "eyes on the street"
  • Creating a protected cycle lane along Fordham Road to link Inwood with Pelham Bay Park
  • Other initiatives to improve our streets: more pedestrian-centric designs, traffic calming, tree planting, green spaces
Feel free to propose your own ideas for neighborhood improvement.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

House overwhelmingly passes Amtrak bill

There's a happy ending to my earlier blog post about the Amtrak funding bill: it passed the House Wednesday by a veto-proof margin of 311-104. The bill authorizes funding for the national passenger railroad over the next five years. Some of the money would go to a program of matching grants to help states set up or expand rail service.

The White House has threatened a veto, saying the bill doesn't hold Amtrak accountable for its spending. But similar legislation has passed the Senate, also with enough support to override a veto.

More details at the New York Times.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A few pet peeves

Here's my equal-opportunity list of pet peeves:

  • Not looking before crossing the street
  • Walking and congregating in bike lanes (treating bike lanes as an extension of the sidewalk); the Prince St. bike lane is particularly bad in this respect as is the Hudson River Greenway, where runners and walkers persist in using bicycle/skater-only lanes in stretches where there is a beautiful adjacent pedestrian path
  • Crossing the street while plugged into an iPod or yacking on a cell phone and not paying attention to other pedestrians and street traffic
Mass transit riders:
  • Standing and/or sitting at the top or bottom of subway station stairs, thus impeding taffic flow
  • Playing music (or games) on a portable device without headphones or playing the music with headphones so loudly that it still can be heard by other passengers
  • Preventing the subway doors from closing
  • Littering in the station and in cars
  • Hustling other passengers for money


  • Riding the wrong way up a one-way street, particularly in a narrow bike lane: this is a recipe for collision with a cyclist going in the correct direction
  • Blowing through red lights without checking the intersection first
  • Not being mindful of pedestrians


  • Driving, standing, stopping, or parking in a bike lane (a sadly rather frequent occurrence in New York). It forces cyclists to dart out into faster-moving traffic and makes conditions more chaotic and dangerous for everyone.
  • Not checking for cyclists before opening a car door (the biggest danger to cyclists in an urban environment)
  • Not checking for cyclists before executing a turn
  • Excessive speeding on city streets
  • Displaying general obliviousness to cyclists and pedestrians while driving

What are your pet peeves?

Latest cycling adventures

The Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC

I keep meaning to get on and blog about what I've been up to cycling-wise, so here's a recent round-up:

1. CHARLESTON NIGHT RIDES: Memorial Day weekend I went to Charleston, SC to catch a few concerts at Piccolo Spoleto (where a family member was performing). After briefly considering bringing my beloved but bulky folding bike (and dreading the thought of schlepping it through the airport), I realized the simple solution would be to rent a bicycle once I got there. The Bicycle Shoppe at 280 Meeting Street outfitted me with a good-quality 8-speed city bicycle, helmet, and lock for four days (all for the low cost of $42). The heat, even for late May, verged on oppressive, but I enjoyed many nighttime rides, particularly around the historic district, down King Street (where there are some Art Deco gems), and across the Ravenel Bridge. I can't say enough good things about night rides: traffic is light, air is cool, and one sees another, often romantic, side of cities. Charleston is amazingly intact and--dare I say it?--almost European in feel.

2. MANHATTAN CRITICAL MASS RIDE: Ever since I started cycling a couple of months ago, I've been wanting to participate in the famed Critical Mass ride. Friday, May 30 was my opportunity. The Reverend Al Sharpton was there to make common cause, linking the NYPD shooting of Sean Bell to NYPD harassment of cyclists participating in Critical Mass. I was determined not to get a ticket and as I was riding from Union Square, I already saw cyclists being ticketed at 13th St. and 7th Ave. (While I was watching this, I noticed bicycle delivery guys riding the wrong way up 7th Ave who were, of course, being completely left alone by police.) So I held back a bit to let the police clear and consequently lost the ride. I rode south a bit, then tacked back up to Union Square, where I joined up with a few Massers to ride to Times Square. As we gathered on a pedestrian island, a police car pulled behind us to insist we vacate the space. I rode down to Union Square in another small bunch, at which point we separated. Sadly, this ride really soured my view of the NYPD. It was frustrating to watch my tax dollars being used to selectively harass cyclists and stifle political protest. I felt like a hunted animal on my bicycle.

3. EAST COAST GREENWAY RIDE: Here's a charming sequel to my Charleston adventure. When I was biking across the bridge, I noticed a sign for the East Coast Greenway. My curiosity piqued, I Googled the organization once I got back to New York. Their goal is "to connect cities and towns of the East Coast with a continuous, traffic-free path...from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida. " (The Hudson River Greenway, along which I ride to work, is part of this larger network.)

To raise awareness for ECG in Westchester, the organization held a ride on Sunday, June 1 from Bronxville to Battery Park. The ride traveled along the proposed Westchester Greenway route, then connected with existing greenways in the Bronx, crossed over Inwood's Broadway bridge, and continued down the Hudson River Greenway to Battery Park. I was particularly delighted to ride through Westchester and the Bronx, as this was new territory. At the end of the ride, I became a member of ECG. Later, I bicycled with a couple of friends from the ride over the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the Telectroscope, then back to Manhattan and up the Greenway to Inwood, Sweet Inwood.

4. CENTRAL PARK MOONLIGHT RIDE: On Friday, I gathered with about 40 cyclists at Columbus Circle at 10 p.m. to enjoy a scenic moonlight ride through Central Park organized by Times Up!. It was a perfect temperature for cycling. The ride led us over several pedestrian paths (normally closed to cyclists) and stopped several times for scenic vistas. I chatted with several riders and was delighted to spot several folding bicycles.

5. TOUR DE QUEENS: Yesterday, I rode in the first-ever Tour de Queens organized by the Queens Committee of Transportation Alternatives. As I had missed pre-registration, I made sure to arrive by 8 a.m. to sign up. The trip from Inwood to Flushing took about 100 minutes by combining the A, D, and E trains and a bike ride from Forest Hills. The day was a scorcher, even at 8 a.m., so I gratefully took refuge after registration in the air-conditioned Queens Museum of Art, where I slathered myself in sunscreen, purchased a vegetarian empanada to enjoy later on the ride, and admired the three-dimensional panorama of New York City that had been marked out with the bicycle route. After some speechifying at 9 a.m., our group of 500 riders kicked off for a tour that covered both ugly, industrial stretches and very charming communities like Middle Village and Forest Hills. Providentially, I had been handed some lightweight reusable towels that I moistened and covered my forehead and neck with to prevent overheating and sunburn (as well as continued applications of sunblock to my hands and nose). Along the way, generous Queens residents would hose us down. At the finish, I gratefully entombed myself once again in the museum to clean up, cool down, eat some sushi, and watch a Streetfilms mini-festival. Crazily enough, I rode home to Inwood, but thankfully the route was down tree-lined streets and mostly pleasant.

5. NEW BICYCLE: I decided to buy a Downtube Mini on Friday, after several frustrating experiences folding and carrying my bike through my office and the subway system. I love the ride my current Downtube provides, but I want to try a more compact folder to see if that makes a significant difference in portability and ease of use. What does mean that two months into cycling, I'm already buying another bicycle? (I'm trying to avoid becoming one of those people with multiple bicycles--I just don't have the space!)